Archive | September, 2009

Oh Where Oh Where Have You Been Ryan? Oh Where Oh Where Have You Been?

Posted on 30 September 2009 by Lou

Pirates Cubs Baseball

Ryan Dempster pitched a complete game, 5-hit shutout over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.  He struck out 6 and walked just 2, throwing 120 pitches to notch his 1st shutout since July 2001.  After a 17 win season in 2008, Dempster has disappointed in 2009.  So where did the 2008 Dempster go?  Probably down the drain like the rest of the Cubs.  Early on, Dempster struggled with control issues and a lack of run support.  In all but 3 of his 1st 17 starts, Dempster walked at least 2 batters in the game.  In 9 of the 17 starts, he walked at least 3 batters in the game, with a season high 6 walks in a 4-1 loss to the White Sox on June 17th.

Throw in a July DL stint because of a fluke broken toe during a “Cubby Occurrence Celebration”, and it has been a long frustrating season for Dempster.  Of late, Demspter has regained the control that made him so effective in 2008.  In his last 11 starts, he has walked 3 batters in a game only once.  In 6 of those starts he has walked one batter or less.  Better control means more innings pitched – he has pitched at least 7 innings in all but 2 of those 11 starts, and in those 2 starts, he survived through 6 innings.  That helps him have a better chance of qualifying for wins, and it helps his bullpen remain fresh through a long MLB season.

Right now, Dempster is 11-8 with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.  He has 162 K’s against 64 walks.  Credit Dempster for staying on course despite the frustrations he, the Cubs and Cubs fans have been feeling all season long.

Dempster will make his final start of 2009 against the Diamondbacks on Sunday at Wrigley Field.  Will 12 wins be in the cards?  Hopefully – - because Dempster is confident there will be a carryover into the 2010 MLB schedule – “It’s unfortunate the season is coming to an end because I feel stronger than I did earlier in the year.”

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Cubs Take 3 of 4 From Giants, but Can’t Sweep as Wells Falters

Posted on 29 September 2009 by Lou

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The Cubs took 3 of 4 from the Giants in San Francisco, but could not pull off the sweep as Randy Wells suffered his 10th loss of the season.  Wells struggled all game long, pitching just 5 1/3 innings, giving up 5 ER on 10 hits and 2 walks.  His bid for a season with an ERA under 3.00 is in jeopardy as his ERA rose to 3.18 with the loss.

There was little else to cheer about in the finale as Matt Cain held the Cubs scoreless through the game’s 1st 8 innings.  One bright spot – Justin Berg – who pitched another scoreless inning in relief.  In 7 September appearances, Berg has pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up just 5 hits and 1 walk during that span. The 25-year old is showing off his stuff in an effort to steal aspot in the 2010 Cubs bullpen.

The Cubs pulled off the dramatic win on Thursday night with Jeff Baker’s 2-strike, 2-out, 2-run HR off Giants closer Brian Wilson that gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead.  Carlos Marmol made it 12 for 12 in save chances since being named the Cubs new closer at the end of August.

Carlos Zambrano finally lived up to his “ace” status with a dominating win over Tim Lincecum on Friday night.  Zambrano pitched a complete game shutout, giving up just 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 8.  Zambrano even drove in 2 of the Cubs’ 3 runs with a ground out in the 7th inning and a double in the 9th inning.  Zambrano threw just 98 pitches as he was on his “A” game all night long.

Tom Gorzelanny picked up his 7th win in 2009 with a nice 5-inning outing on Saturday.  He gave up just 1 run on 5 hits and 3 walks with 5 K’s.

The Cubs have 7 more games to go in this frustrating 2009 MLB schedule.  Let’s hope they finish on a positive note.  At 81-74, one more win guarantees the Cubs a 3rd straight non-losing season….

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Cubs Gear up for Final Homestand of 2009 MLB Schedule @ Wrigley Field

Posted on 28 September 2009 by Lou

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While it has been a disappointing 2009 MLB schedule for the Cubs, they will still look to put on a show and preserve a winning season record with their final 7 games at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs will play 4 games against the Pittsburgh Pirates from Tuesday through Thursday at Wrigley Field.  The day-night double-header on Wednesday September 30th is part of the make up game from Sunday August 16th that was postponed because of rain.

The Cubs will close out the season with a 3-game weekend series against the Arizona Diamondbacks from Friday October 2nd through Sunday October 4th.

Both the Pirates and Diamondbacks have losing records, so the Cubs should be able to end the season on a positive note.  It will be the last chance for Cubs fans to see starting pitchers Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells in 2009, and maybe the last time they see soon-to-be-free-agent Rich Harden pitch in a Cubs uniform.

Keep your heads held high Cubs fans – if the Cubs do pull off a winning record in 2009, it will be the 1st time the Cubs have had winning records in 3 straight MLB seasons since the Cubs posted 6 straight winning seasons from 1967 through 1972…

Go Cubs Go!!!

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Wells Looking for 12th Win & ERA under 3.00; Must Outduel Cain

Posted on 27 September 2009 by Lou

Cubs Brewers Baseball

Randy Wells is looking for his 12th win of the 2009 MLB schedule today in San Francisco.  Wells is 11-9 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, but he must out-duel one of the Giants’ dynamic pitchers Matt Cain.  Cain won only 8 games in 2008, but has had a terrific 2009 MLB schedule, going 13-7 with a 2.99 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP.  Cain has lost 3 straight decisions, however, so Wells is hoping that if he can hold down the Giants for 6 or 7 innings, he should be able to notch that 12th win.

After Sunday’s game, the Cubs return home to Wrigley Field for the final 7 games of the season.  And while the season will surely go down as one of the most disappointing seasons in recent history (after winning 2 straight NL Central divisions titles and 97 games in 2008), the Cubs should still make it a 3rd straight winning season, something they have not accomplished since 1972 when the Cubs had 6 straight winning seasons from 1967 through 1972.

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Cubs Skip Ted Lilly Start as Precautionary Move; Could Pitch in San Francisco

Posted on 26 September 2009 by Lou

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The Cubs skipped Ted Lilly’s start against the Brewers this week as a precautionary measure.  Lilly is still dealing with left shoulder tendinitis, but could make a start against the Giants this weekend in San Francisco.

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Cubs Not Giving Up – Lee, Baker, Marmol Prople Cubs to Victory

Posted on 25 September 2009 by Lou

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The Cubs are not going down without a fight!  Jeff Baker’s 2-strike, 2-out, 2-run home run off Giants closer Brian Wilson gave the Cubs a dramatic 3-2 win over the Giants in San Francisco.  After Lee led off the top of the 9th inning with a walk, he stole 2nd to get in scoring position with 2 outs.  Luckily, there wouldn’t be a close play at home plate, as Baker crushed Wilson’s pitch deep to left field to put the Cubs up 3-2.  Baker (and the Cubs) had been down to their last strike.

Carlos Marmol picked up his 12th save in 12 chances since being promoted to the closer’s role in place of Kevin Gregg at the end of August.  It wasn’t pretty – he gave up a single and a walk – but he struck out Aaron Rowand and Fred Lewis with 1st and 2nd and only 1 out to preserve the win for the Cubs.  Manager Lou Pinella annointed Marmol the Cubs 2010 closer – “I see that, yes.  I really do.  I think he’s done enough and shown enough.  We have confidence in him enough going into spring training next year.  It’s his job.  We’ll leave it just at that.”

Ryan Dempster gave the Cubs another solid starting effort down the stretch.  Dempster threw 112 pitches in 7 innings of work, giving up just 2 ER on 7 hits and 1 walk.  Dempster had 6 K’s and he lowered his ERA to 3.68 and his WHIP to 1.33.

Should a fun match-up tonight in San Francisco – Carlos Zambrano in search of win #9 against reigning Cy Young Award winner – the Freak Tim Lincecum…

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Samardzija Looks Better, But Cubs Still Lose to Brewers

Posted on 24 September 2009 by Lou

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The Cubs could not complete the sweep of the Brewers in Miller Park on Wednesday night as Jeff Samardzija suffered his 3rd loss of the 2009 MLB schedule.  Although Samardzija has had a disappointing 2009 (like the Cubs), he looked better in the 5 innings that he pitched against the Brewers.  He only gave up 5 hits, 2 of which were home runs.  One to Prince Fielder and one to Jody Gerut.  He had 1 walk and 3 strikeouts and seemed to be in more control of his pitches throughout the night.  Since being called back up to the major league level in September, however, Samardzija has pitched 7 innings and given up 5 ER on 7 hits and 3 walks.  Overall, Samardzija is 1-3 on the year with a 7.53 ERA and 1.76 WHIP.  Not really sure where the Cubs see Samardzija long-term (reliever or starter), but 2010 could be a big year for Jeff.  He needs to show more consistent control all throughout the season and he needs to show a better strikeout to walk ratio.

The Cubs managed just 7 hits against Chris Narveson and 4 Brewers relievers.  Jeff Baker had 2 hits for the Cubs to raise his batting average to .302.  In addition to a Jeff Samardzija solo home run in the 6th inning, Bobby Scales drove in Baker with the Cubs only other run.

The Cubs finish up their final road trip of the 2009 season with a 4-game weekend set against the Giants in San Francisco.  Ryan Dempster duels Brad Penny in the tonight’s opener.

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Randy Wells Rebounds; Another Day Another HR for Derrek Lee

Posted on 23 September 2009 by Lou

Cubs Brewers Baseball

Randy Wells likes pitching against the Brewers in Miller Park in Milwaukee.  Wells made his major league debut against the Brewers back on May 8th and pitched 5 scoreless innings giving up just 5 hits and 2 walks.  Although he got a no decision in that start, and took the loss in 3 of his first 7 starts without getting a win, Wells has been one of the Cubs most consistent pitchers all season long.  He picked up his 11th win of the season by beating the Brewers 7-2 on Tuesday night.  Wells regained his control after walking 5 Brewers in last week’s 7-4 loss at Wrigley Field.  Wells did not walk a single batter in 6 innings, and he gave up just 1 run on 7 hits in a solid outing.  The lone run scored on a solo home run by Prince Fielder.  Wells has a 3.00 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP and looks to have solidified a spot as a starter in the Cubs 2010 starting rotation.  He has held the opposition to just 2 ER or less in 17 of his 25 starts – pretty damn good.

On the offensive side, Derrek Lee just keeps on hitting.  Lee hit another HR – his 35th of the season – and with 2 more RBI’s, he set a career high with 109 RBI’s on the season.  Lee’s average well above .300 now at .310 and he has put together a solid individual season despite the daily turmoil in the Cubs locker room on a daily basis.

Esmailin Caridad also pitched a scoreless inning of relief.  Caridad gave up 1 hit and struck out 1 Brewers batter.

The Cubs have now won 3 straight and look to sweep the Brewers with Jeff Samardzija making a spot start for Ted Lilly (left shoulder tendinitis) in the series finale on Wednesday night.

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Tom Gorzelanny, Tyler Colvin Eyeing 2010 – Producing Now

Posted on 22 September 2009 by Lou

Cubs Brewers Baseball

The time is now for certain Cubs players to prove their worth for the future.  Lucky for Tom Gorzelanny & Tyler Colvin, they’ll have a shot to show what they can do.  With the suspension of Milton Bradley, the Cubs called upon Tyler Colvin – - to make his major league debut during the last few weeks of the season.  Manager Lou Pinella threw him right into the mix on Monday night in Milwaukee and he produced right away – in the 1st inning!  Colvin had a sacrifice fly in his 1st at-bat, his 1st ever hit in the 3rd inning and his 1st ever walk in the 5th inning.  Colvin made his 2nd career out in the 7th inning, but at least he advanced a runner on the groundball out.  All in all, a productive night for Colvin in his major leage debut…  He had this to say about the night – “Yeah, I was nervous.  I can’t hide that.  I was really nervous before the game, I didn’t eat.  Once I got out there I was all right… You learn to control your emotions in front of a big crowd.  I’ve never played in front of a crowd like this.  Hopefully I can build off this.”

Tom Gorzelanny also showed some grit in the Cubs 10-2 win.  Manager Lou Pinella likes what Gorzelanny brings to the club – “We like Gorzelanny.  He’s got a spot here, whether it’s pitching in the middle of the bullpen or whether it’s as a fourth or fifth starter.  We’ll have to wait and see what happens over the winter.”  Gorzelanny pitched on 5 innings on Monday night, but he struck out 9 and gave up 2 ER on 6 hits and 1 walk.  Both runs scored on solo home runs by Mike Cameron.  Gorzelanny has made 11 appearances (5 starts) since coming over from the Pirates and while his ERA is a hefty 5.04, he has a solid 1.19 WHIP and a 3-1 record.

As for the regulars, Derrek Lee continues to be one of the hottest hitters in baseball since July 1st.  He was 3 for 4 with 4 RBI’s and 3 runs scored.  He clubbed his 34th HR in the win and tied his career high in RBI’s with 107.  His average is up to .306 and his on-base percentage is .391.  Aramis Ramirez also went for 3 for 4, including his 14th home run of the season.  And in just 286 at-bats and 76 games, Ramirez has 61 RBI’s good for 2nd best on the team behind Lee.  Kosuke Fukudome and Jeff Baker each had 2 hits.  And Justin Berg has continued his good relief pitching for the Cubs – in 5 September appearances, Berg has pitched 5 scoreless innings, allowing just 4 hits and no walks during that span.

While the season is essnetially over for all intents and purposes, it is nice to see guys still competing for pride and for the future.  Hopefully a positive ending will remind the Cubs that they were the division champs 2 years in a row, and that a rebound is not out of the question…

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Cubs Suspend Milton Bradley; GM Jim Hendry Should be Next to Go

Posted on 21 September 2009 by Lou

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Wow – with the meaningless weekend series between the Cubs & Cardinals, at least Milton Bradley and Jim Hendry gave us some lively action to sink our teeth into.  The Cubs officially suspended Milton Bradley for the rest of the 2009 MLB schedule on Sunday for his adverse actions and statements made regarding the Cubs organization.  Yippee – it’s about time…

Here’s what GM Jim Hendry said to the media on Sunday:  “There have been a lot of issues that we’ve lived with during the year but the last few days became too much for me to tolerate, to be honest with you.  I’m not going to let our great fans become an excuse, I’m not going to tolerate not answering questions from the media respectfully.  Whether you feel like talking or not, it’s part of our jobs.  I’m not going to allow disrespect to other people in that locker room and uniformed personnel. The only real negativity here is his won production.”

Among many issues raised by Bradley all season long – racism, means fans, injury issues – it all came to a head when Manager Lou Pinella pulled Bradley during Wednesday night’s game against the Brewers during a double-switch.  I guess Bradley did not like being pulled by Pinella, so in Thursday’s series finale against the Brewers, Bradley pulled himself from the games with an apparent “knee injury” to “get back at” Pinella.  Can you say “baby”?!  Then Bradley refused to answer questions about the knee injury, he pulled himself from Friday night’s game in St. Louis right before the 1st pitch to put Pinella and the Cubs in another bad position, and finally proceeded to bad-mouth the Cubs organization and fans.  Here’s what he said:  “It’s just not a positive environment.  I need a stable, healthy, enjoyable environment.  There’s too many people everywhere in your face with a microphone asking the same questions repeatedly.  Everyone is just bashing you.  You go out there and play harder than anybody on the field and never get credit for it.  It’s just negativity.  And you understand why they haven’t won in 100 years here, because it’s negative.  It’s what it is.”

The Bradley signing was a bad move in November, it was a bad move during spring training, it was a bad move when he injured himself during the first few weeks of the season, and it was a bad move all season long.  And it’s taken the man in charge of player personnel 10 months to realize that.  Let’s look at the numbers:

In 393 at-bats in 124 games, Bradley hit .257 with a .378 on-base percentage.  Bradley hit 12 HR’s and 17 doubles and drove in 40 runs while scoring 61 runs.  He had 66 walks and 95 strikeouts.  Now without comparing him to every single player on the Cubs, let’s simply compare him to Jake Fox – a young player who helped the Cubs in numerous positions and is the consummate team player.  In just 189 at-bats in 74 games, Fox hit .286 with a .335 on-base percentage.  Fox hit 11 HR’s and 14 doubles and drove in 42 runs while scoring 26 runs.  Fox also makes a LOT less than the $10 million Bradley is set to make under his 3-year deal with the Cubs.  In half the number of at-bats, Fox had more RBI’s and 1 less HR than Bradley.  How can this be?

Throw in the horrendous fielding in right field, the numerous dropped/misplayed balls, and the fact that Bradley is not a “good” clubhouse guy, this was a disaster waiting to happen.  Most people saw this, and the man in charge of player personnel decisions should have seen this day coming too.  It’s time for Hendry to get the boot too.

Three years ago, I thought Hendry did a great job re-inventing the Cubs model after reliance on injury-prone pitchers (Kerry Wood, Mark Prior) came back to haunt the Cubs year-after-year.  Hendry signed middle-of-the-road pitchers Jason Marquis and Ted Lilly because he knew they were innings-eaters who would make 25-30 starts a season.  He added Mark DeRosa – a solid ballplayer who was a great clubhouse guy who would produce day-in-and-day-out.

But after these “conservative” moves, Hendry started making some questionable moves that undermined his new game plan.  The Alfonso Soriano signing was exciting, but why the 8 years for a player that would be over 30 years at the start of his 1st season with the Cubs?  Soriano’s 2009 numbers – 477 at-bats, .241 batting average, .303 on-base percentage, 20 HR’s, 55 RBI’s, 64 runs & 118 K’s. Why 4 years (and close to $50 million) on an unproven major league player from Japan – Kosuke Fukodome – who would be handed the everyday right field job? Fukodome’s 2009 numbers – - 462 at-bats, .253 batting average, .371 on-base percentage, 11 HR’s, 52 RBI’s, 71 runs & 103 K’s (these numbers are nearly identical to his 2008 numbers whcih were considered a huge disappointment).  And most recently, why 3 years and $30 on Milton Bradley?

Coupled with those moves, Hendry had to unload the likes of Mark DeRosa and Marquis who once again had productive years in 2009 without causing any issues in their respective clubhouses.  DeRosa has a combined 21 HR’s, 72 RBI’s and 74 runs scored while playing for the Indians and Cardinals in 479 at-bats.  Marquis is 15-11 in 30 starts pitching half his time for the Rockies in Coors Field in Denver.  Marquis has a 3.84 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP and will likely be pitching in the post-season for the 6th straight year.

Hendry has mortgaged the outfield with the signings of Soriano, Fukudome and Bradley for the next few years.  The Cubs will have little room for the free agent market during the off-season following the horrible 2009 MLB campaign.  And we haven’t even mentioned the signing of Carlos Zambrano to an extension during the 2008 MLB season – and now we’re hearing rumblings that the Cubs will try to move Zambrano in the off-season to dump salary.  Does this guy even have a clue or a plan?  How do you sign a player to a 4-year extension because he is so important to your team, and then – less than 1 year later – decide that you can’t have this guy on your ballclub anymore?  It just doesn’t make sense to me and it is a downward trend that is becoming more and more evident with Hendry if you truly analayze the moves he has made the last 2-3 years.  I hope the Ricketts family takes a very close look at Hendry and makes an informed decision on whether or not he is the man to lead this the organization to a World Series.  There was a time where I thought he had what it took to do the job, but right now, I firmly believe that Hendry must go too…

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